Images courtesy of Tamayouz Excellence Award

Almedina Youth House Competition: Learn more about the theme

The managing director of Tamayouz Excellence Award, Ahmed Al-Mallak, shares more insight about this year’s theme of the Dewan Award for Architecture.

The Dewan Award for Architecture, established in 2018 as part of Tamayouz Excellence Award’s programme of championing and celebrating the best of architecture, is an international award that focuses on proposing designs that respond to local challenges in Iraq. Named after and funded by Dewan Architects + Engineers, one of the leading architecture firms in the world, the award announces an annual theme for each cycle, and calls on participants to submit architectural ideas that respond to the theme.

For 2020, the theme of the Dewan Award for Architecture is ‘Youth House Complex in Sadr City’, a district of Baghdad. The competition asks participants to design a multi-activity youth complex and public plaza, creating a youthful cultural strip and a public platform that can hose various cultural and social events.

Here, we speak with Ahmed Al-Mallak, the founding director of Tamayouz Excellence Award about this year’s theme.

Sadr City

Why did you select the theme of a youth house complex?
A youth complex with a true cultural focus is non-existent in today’s Iraq – there aren’t any being planned or implemented. Authorities now prioritise schemes that offer certain groups financial benefits over the good of the people, and the biggest victim of this is the youth, with sport clubs being leased to developers to be turned into commercial property. One example is Al-Adhamiya’s ‘Olympic Club’, which once hosted some of the most important architectural and cultural activities. We want to highlight the need for such spaces through the competition.

Read More: Almedina Youth House Competition: Learn more about the project site

Why focus on a project that addresses the concerns of Iraqi youth?
Iraqi youth under the age of 35 make up 65 percent of the country’s population, which means Iraq has around 25 million people aged 35 and younger. These individuals grew up during a period that followed the fall of Baghdad and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. A generation exhausted by chaos, war and the collapse of social structure, while also confronted with the ways of life elsewhere via the Internet and social media, the county’s youth nurtured a growing conviction that Iraq deserves much better than the status quo – especially when considering its resources and the potential of its youth.

Why locate the competition in Baghdad?
It’s Iraq’s most populous city with most of the country’s youth living there.

Aerial view of Sadr City’s sectors

Are there examples of other youth houses in Iraq that can perhaps provide participants with information or inspiration?
Youth houses or centres have not been built in Iraq in decades, which make any examples from Iraq out of date. For this reason, we are giving participants the chance to create the programme of the building with some suggestions from us.

Why incorporate a public plaza into the competition? How does a public plaza impact the youth house?
There are two main reasons for a public plaza. The first is a youth house and a public plaza welcoming visitors from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds will serve as a platform to exchange ideas and aspirations, with the opportunity to unleash their creative ideas without restrictions. The second is an urban impact – the city is designed in a gridiron plan that disconnects the different sectors from each other. By incorporating a plaza, the project will offer a public space that connects the surrounding area and that encourages gathering.

Read More: Almedina Youth House Competition: learn more about the daily life of Sadr City

If realised, how do you think a youth house complex would impact the surrounding area?
One youth centre in Sadr City, an area of 2 million residents, will not make much of an impact, but maybe it will give a glimpse of hope to more than 25 million young Iraqis that their existence is acknowledged.